The North Loop Galley, located on the ground floor of the brand new Nordic building on Washington Avenue, differentiates itself from the roster of local competitors immediately upon crossing its threshold.
Though on paper its square footage seems daunting, the newest food hall on the block feels more like a giant Scandinavian living room. Big windows and ample, communal-style seating pre-set with water carafes lend an air of downtown dining—not high-priced foraging.
Blake Sileo, the Galley’s general manager, was eager to show how small, thoughtful details contribute to this.
Customers are given a number to take with them when they order, so they can sit down rather than hover. Food is delivered by the chefs’ teams while a Galley-provided staff of apron-clad bussers buzz around clearing plates and maintaining the room. “We also serve on actual china,” said Sileo. The vibe is very close to that of a traditional restaurant, but with more movement and a greater selection.
Beyond these touches of service and set decoration, Sileo is most excited about a daily happy hour he described as “aggressive.”
All 19 of their taps, plus pours of wine and any of the bar’s Prince-themed cocktails (designed by the Pittsburgh-based company to highlight products from local spirits and distilleries) are half-price from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guests order directly from the 22-seat bar, but may enjoy their beverages anywhere within the space.
Still, most diners are drawn by the promise of new and inventive food that has yet to go brick-and-mortar. In such an environment, and with only four food vendors, each is under immense pressure to deliver. Impossibly, all exceeded expectations.
Thigh Times Birdhouse is a new venture from industry veterans Jared and Jenn Brewington. The couple took their experience running Funky Grits and distilled it into something equally craveable. They’ve created tastier chicken snacks than ever, with offerings like Tato Tenders (boneless chicken covered in potato chips). “Each Wrib has the meat of two regular chicken wings,” says Brewington, explaining their ingenious method for preparing bone-in chicken thighs to look like wings but eat like big, juicy ribs.
Wrecktangle Pizza—the Cities’ first Detroit-style specialists—arrived packing heat, literally and figuratively. Their Shredder is outstanding, balancing classics with inventiveness. It comes topped with red sauce, perfect little pepperoni cups, Pecorino Romano, pickled jalapeno peppers, and a whipped honey spiked with Cry Baby Craig’s. Perhaps even more astounding is Wrecktangle’s Sotalicious; it’s tater tot hotdish in pizza form, topped with a pickle roll-up, that’s approximately 15 times better than it has any right to be.
Next door, Warren Seta and Jess Kelley deliver “fast food done slowly.” Ono Hawaiian Plates built a following in the past two years by hosting pop-ups to the delight of huge crowds. At their spot in the Galley, they remain dedicated to serving “good food that’s also unpretentious” in the form of the Hawaiian plate lunch. The menu reflects Hawaii’s rich cultural and culinary heritage, which lets diners bounce between chicken Katsu (with its Japanese roots), Korean barbecue, Kalua smoky pulled pork, and so much more depending on their mood or level of adventurousness. Included in the deal are scoops of sticky rice garnished with togarashi and a rich macaroni salad. (And yes, of course they’ve got spam musubi.)
SoulFu is the creation of chef-owner Timmy Truong, who realized that mixing Southeast Asian flavor profiles with Cajun standards equals comfort food from another dimension. Look for starters like the kimchi collards, which makes the most of pleasant bitterness and sweet, crunchy pickling. Pair this with a divine roast duck mac and cheese, or Southern fried chicken served over classic fried rice. Most exciting of all may have been SoulFu’s cheesy grits; they were perfectly textured (a rare find!) and turned up a notch from a basic savory side by the addition of Chinese five-spice fried pork belly.
With drink specials to lure the curious, a spread of winning dining options for destination diners, and a staff that supports lingering, this new food hall may become one of the North Loop's better hangs.
North Loop Galley opens to the public today.
729 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis